Church of a Healthy Man
In this text I will try to briefly explain why, despite the injuries and pain caused by religion, I find the experience of religiosity extremely useful.
For a long time I was a “religious man”, an Orthodox Christian. Actually, I still consider myself a member of the Orthodox Church, I profess the Nicene-Tsaregradsky creed, regularly receive communion, pray to God Christ, the Crucified and Resurrected, and try to apply the ethics set forth in the New Testament in life.
In previous years, I devoted more time and effort to religious practice, including rituals, than now, and I devoted about 27 years to these activities. I write this just to make it clear: in religion, I understand something.
In this text I will try to briefly explain why, despite the injuries and pain caused by religion, I find the experience of religiosity extremely useful. And not only for himself personally, but also for every person. I am sure that a long, serious, conscious Christian practice teaches skills that are very necessary in life, useful to any person regardless of beliefs.
Even if you think that there is no God.
Even if you hate church organizations and priests of all stripes.
Even if you are disgusted by the ringing of bells, the sight of temples and the smell of incense, these skills are still extremely valuable.
And although we all heard many times that religion is full of hypocrisy, that it restricts people's freedom and interferes with happiness, I did not see those who broke with it to be completely free, happy, and honest people. And I know a lot of "departed". In most cases, they change unless household habits, nothing more.
Just in case, I’ll add that I found out in my own skin how religiosity can injure and mutilate. Just as a school, a job, a failed marriage, a sports section, or just chatting with the wrong people can spoil. Religion can be harmful and dangerous, like any human enterprise. But in this text I am talking about the useful and positive side – and how you came out of the Church with a trembling embittered neurotic, you can read in a host of other places. I am writing about “The Church of a Healthy Man”. And I did not go out of it, for there is no need.
So, what usefulness can be taught by the experience of religiosity. Not “religious experience” —that is what mystical experiences are commonly called, namely, the experience of living according to the rules and directions that the Orthodox Church offers to its children.
1. Religion – in the normal case, not distorted by human passions – teaches awareness. That is, the habit of asking the question as often as possible: “What am I doing and why?”
As in specific circumstances and about a specific task, and in general about life. Serious religiosity is the enemy of all automatism, it is extremely reflective. Moreover, this reflection is not over his state in the style of “oh, it hurts here, it shot”, but serious questions: where am I going? What am I doing for this? what comes of this?
In the religious world, the price of error is understood as extremely high: eternal life is at stake, which means that regular check-ups of one’s state and goals are necessary not only vitally, but forever. Even outside of religion, this question does not bring anything but good, allowing you to filter out unnecessary and harmful things from life, choose the main thing and act purposefully.
In addition, the ascetic system of the Orthodox Church, formed in quite old times, teaches an important skill in assessing one’s condition over long distances. Within a day, week, month, even year, we change quite imperceptibly: emotions constantly give out more and more situational twists and turns, which can easily be confused with changes, although these are just temporary moods. The habit of long memory makes any person more stable and confident: a momentary experience does not seem to him to be eternal, he remembers well how quite recently it was different, and before that it was the same, but this and that had passed. And that means that what is now will pass, and it’s important not to give up. Or not get carried away, for there were also many such hobbies, and they passed.
2. Religion teaches honesty at one’s own expense. Because a religious person remembers the Last Judgment. The Christian knows that God evaluates him, and God cannot be deceived. The very situation when you are constantly looked at from heaven by the loving but stern look of the omniscient Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, when nothing is impossible to hide, eliminates intentional self-deception. Yes, it can be traumatic, but fraught with complete despair. But there is also a useful side to this skill: a person with experience of serious religiosity distinguishes well when he begins to lie to himself and look for excuses, and knows how to stop these attempts.
3. Religion teaches humility. Not the mantra "I am worse than everyone, I am worse than everyone" – this is a technical mantra, it is no more true than the image of God in the form of a grandfather on a cloud: sometimes useful, but it does not express the essence. Religion teaches real humility, the very one that Jobs and Gates speak in motivating speeches. It teaches that the world (but not God) does not care about you, that you are not the navel of the earth, and it will be difficult for you (from the word labor), and this is inevitable, and sometimes you will have to eat the bitter bread of defeats and failures. The world is ruled by One whose paths are inscrutable and Who does not tell you about his plans, but simply does what he wants. He cannot be understood, He should just trust – and therefore, work hard, so as not to shame the mission handed over.
And this is the most important quality, in practice turning into the ability not to whine, but to work. Or at least not just whining.
4. Religion teaches gratitude. That special type of relationship, which is quite rare, but very much appreciated by people. When they do not forget good and do not avenge evil, when there is calm benevolence and a willingness to help (because there is a commandment “Give the one who asks you”), which does not turn into obscurity (because we were taught not to seek approval from people).
In addition, religion teaches that all people are the same. That it makes no sense to be timid in front of someone and dream of entering into some kind of "high society", worrying about someone's inattention, and so on. All are sinners. All are mortal. All will be judged by one God who loves all. No one is better than the other. I am no better than anyone, but no one is better than me. And therefore, everyone should be honored, as to the one for whom Christ died.
Moreover, ideally, a religious person accepts both evil and good as a gift of God, seeking in everything above all good and lesson, and not cause for discontent.
5. Religion teaches hope. Moreover, it begins by understanding its position as absolutely hopeless: one who cannot be “helped” needs “salvation”. We live in a world fatally corrupted, we are subject to sin, and by ourselves are not able to cope with it, we will all die. Our prayers, sacrifices, fasts, virtues – all this is useless, and we understand it well, because no one can save himself, but Christ saves everyone. But even in such a situation, we hope for God and His promises to us. Religion teaches us not to give up in any circumstances and not to give up despair, even if the whole world was against it. Job's wife, who told him “Yes, damn, finally, God and die” – an example of an extremely incorrect attitude to trials.
In the Church, in the right case, they teach to believe in miracles and fight to the end. Indeed, for a believer, even death is not the end. And this is extremely, extremely useful in life, especially in difficult times. Just because it’s easier for an optimist to live, and it’s human to err. Including in the assessment of the distance to victory.
Yes, it’s logical to ask a question: why are believers not so – not always honest, not conscious, ungrateful and tend to lose hope at times. And the answer will be quite ordinary. First of all, people are weak. Do many gymnasium visitors really visit them regularly? Are people of science always acting rationally, or are those who wear epaulets always brave and disciplined? And to believe in God is much more difficult and more difficult than to ride on simulators, and certainly not easier than to engage in scientific research or to serve in the army.
So not every believer is successful in his service to God.
And there is such an unpleasant factor as mass parasitism in religious institutions of dishonest people.
Just because religion is a very powerful thing. Wherever there is a lot of energy, a lot of sincerity, a lot of fire and light, a lot of sincere enthusiasm, those who find a way to appropriate it all are found. There is nothing to be spoiled. Family, creative work, friendship, art, scientific research, caring for each other, even such simple things as food and clothing, are parasites everywhere that pervert the process itself for its own safety, wealth, psychological comfort, and so on. And they also exist in religion, and this should be clearly understood: even the Good News can be distorted for the sake of someone else's benefit, and this distortion has victims.
And returning to the paragraph that I know how religion can mutilate a person, it is in a situation where such a powerful force falls into dishonorable hands or becomes an instrument of unreasonable people, and freaks and “invalids of spiritual warfare” are born.
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